Alaska 2014

NOTE:  When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.  Comments added AFTER coming back to San Jose are in [square brackets].

 

Report 52. Day 52. Wed, June 25. Watson Lake to Fort Nelson. 18 Bears.

We are resolve this day to hit the road super early, to maximize our chances for moose and bears, Oh My.

It's partly cloudy, mostly sunny. However, the sun's not up yet, and we have beaten it. Just like we wanted.

We refueled last evening, so we don't have to do that. Our ETA is 11:31am, so that's 7 hours of driving, but we'll hope to get in at 2:30 or 3:30, as a guess. We are headed for the Triple G RV Park and Restaurant in Fort Nelson.

As we leave, we say Bye Watson Lake, Bye sign forest. Suddenly a fox appears in the fog, and Sharon is madly describing to me the location. {Bob hopped out of the car (he's doing that more lately) and ran back to see if he could film what we saw but I suddenly see it running away from us in the opposite direction from where Bob is looking. I honk the horn to call him back and point him in the right direction} I finally get it through the windshield, and it appears very cartoonish, but it has nice white markings on the tip of the tail, and on the butt, either side of the tail.

 

A graveyard zooms by on our right, with one area full of white crosses. Canadian boys who lost their lives in military service to Canada. I'm guessing Iraq and Viet Nam.

Sharon spots a sign for "A Nice Motel", and then "The Lucky Lake", so we picture a nice motel on Lucky Lake.

As we're driving out, Sharon casually says, "Two bears." Huh? Where? She explains that she thought they were a couple of bushes, till they disappeared over the side, to our right. One was black and the other the brown variation of the black bear. OK, that's Bear 1 and Bear 2 for the day.

We come to our first Welcome to BC sign. There will be more this day because the road meanders back and forth across the border between BC and the Yukon.

Another sign says to watch for wildlife on the road, and that this is Muncho Lake Province. {There are signs warning of Buffalo on the road from here to Muncho Lake ahead}

We are going 30 mph right now, letting a car that just passed us get far, far ahead, so we get a clean shot at animals crossing the road after that car has passed.

A bunny rabbit on the right. Funny, about bunny. It's not a bunny, and it's not a rabbit. It has to be both: a bunny rabbit. What am I? 12? Maybe. Anyway the little fellow twitches his ears fending off the mosquitoes, and we feel for him.

{He was perfectly comouflaged and you cannot see him until he moves his ears.}

We cross the Hyland River.

Sharon picks up another bunny rabbit but no photos this time since we got the first one so good.

A pair of ravens on the right side of the road, pretended to be Willow ptarmigan for two seconds, then revealed their true selves.

We continue bouncing back and forth between the two provinces, and I can even see multiple crossings on one gps screen.

We cross Irons Creek in the Yukon.

A solitary wood buffalo makes his appearance.

A little later, and we get about ten minutes of black bear video. That's Bear #3 for the day.

Early morning is gorgeous. In the second photo, I like the individual tall trees standing above all the neighbors.

I pull over for a rest room break, right at a burned out car, next to a Welcome to the Yukon sign. Juxtaposed.

A sign drifts by saying that we are entering Fort Nelson Forest Area, although Fort Nelson is still 270 miles away. We love the clouds forming, roiling up, making their presence felt. {It's interesting, I take pictures from the truck almost continuously, clouds, mountains, etc. It's great having digital as I just let Bob pick out the good ones without my having to worry about "wasting film" like in the past.}

Boom. Another black bear on the left. We get some footage of him running away, and that's Bear #4 for the day.

Sharon spooks a nice Red-tailed Hawk with his own call, and we get a video of him fleeing his perch.

A bit later, we encounter three wood buffalo, with one on the road, and two in the grass beside the road.

Sharon is shooting, and suddenly gets a message:" No more space on memory stick."

So I go running into the trailer, and find an extra one in a pocket of my vest. Back out, but I can't remember how to do a blanket erasure. So I do several one-day-at-a-time erasures, then discover a little faster way. I soon judge I have enough space to resume video and I rush it to Sharon.

And next, there is an unbelievable flurry of activity, in which we get five, yes FIVE, bears over a few minute period. Bears #4,5,6,7 and 8!

First, there is a solitary reddish-brown bear eating flowers. Number 4. Sharon is on the video. The red bear suddenly stops his eating activity and is staring down the road, behind us. {Bob clicks the door lock, I don't know why but it makes a loud sound} The bear stands up. Holy cow, is that cool. He is studying the situation, then he goes back down to all fours. Did he stand because of the sound? Bob clicks the door again but we see that the bear is really interested in something down the road from us.}Then he turns and runs like hell, into the woods. Just as he does this, I can see two black bears (Numbers 5 and 6) in Sharon's side mirror. Holy cow, that's what he ran from. So we switch over to videoing them. Finally these two bears are scared by traffic, and run away from the road, but stop just short of the forest. Great, great stuff.

We resume our travels but get Number 7 and Number 8 within about five minutes of each other. Wow. More bears, please. {The pattern is always the same. As we drive fairly slowly, we will see a black round shape ahead of us which gives us time to pull over before we scare them away. Using the zoom on the camera we usually get some good shots without having to stress the bear.}

Number 9 follows these two a few minutes later. We stop and watch a playback of the video of the reddish bear standing up, back down, then running. Wow.

On we go, and we pick up five wood buffalo. I'm on overload.

We finally stop for a break, for breakfast, and a nap. Sharon wakes up first, if she ever DID nap, and goes outside to be entertained by a family of five ravens. The two babies still have orange inside their mouths. {I heard such a racket of ravens calling each other and could see that there were babies begging to be fed. I put out some peanuts and watch how the parent can't even get a peanut out of the shell before being harrassed by his baby. Great fun}

Sharon picks up a feather, which we are pretty sure we saw on one of the babies just before it came off. {What a treasure of that moment.}

Off we go, with Sharon noting all the buffalo wallows on the left side with the ground being torn up by the buffalo for dust baths and their resting spots, indicated by flattened grass spots

A bit later and we get Bear #10. We cover him so well, that we finally just end up leaving him, still eating grass or flowers beside the road.

I had been calling the river running beside us the Liard, but it turns out to be the Coal River. A kestrel flutters to our right, in the direction of the river.

Then BOOM, Bear #11 is another cinnamon colored black bear. And five minutes later, Bear #12, a standard black black bear.

A few minutes later and Bears #13 and #14 - a mama and cub, make their appearance to our right, in the grass. Wonderful. This is two shots of mama.

Two motorcycles zip by, the first one with a Gopro Camera on top of his helmet.

A bit later, we drive right past Liard River Hot Springs. We had thought months ago that we might stop in here, but we are so high on bears, we need, we MUST keep going. Sharon points out more buffalo wallows.

We cross the mighty Liard River on its crossing bridge.

While we're stopped photographing another bear, another RV rig stops in the road to make sure we're ok. "Herd of buffalo in the road ahead. Be careful." We note that carefully. Ooooh, a herd!?

Around a corner we come, and there they are. There is a line of about six vehicles coming towards us, but they are blocked by the buffalo. I pull over beside the road, and we watch in total awe, as about sixty buffalo walk right past our truck - Males, females and lots of calves. Awesome. The hair on the back of my head stands up.

Sharon captures on video the leading edge of the herd, and running before it is a Willow Ptarmigan clucking away. Very cool. {This is the first we have seen females and babies. I notice the mothers keep the babies in the center away from our truck and trailer but they don't act aggressive at all.}

Since we do have to eat, we finally stop for lunch, watching some of the video we shot this morning. Holy moly, this is unbelievable.

Then its back on the road, crossing the Trout River.

Going around a corner near beautiful azure blue Muncho Lake, a car flips his lights on and off. This is the universal sign for something ahead of us.

Immediately a chipmunk runs across the road. Was that what he flipped his lights at? Doubtful

Then as we round a few more turns, we get a very nice moose. This is what he was warning us about. The moose is very casual, gets a drink from a stream, then another one. We move on.

We cross the Toad River, and this is Entry #49 for the day. It has been a long, long time since I made that many entries in one day.

Sharon points out a pair of lady's ice skates wrapped around a power cord going over the road. {I've seen shoes thrown over electric lines before, I think kids do it, but I had never seen ice skates before.}

And still a bit later, we drive past the beaver dam we stopped to investigate on our way north.

We see again the beautiful horses at this ranch.

A nice herd of stone sheep turn up on the road, and we get minutes of footage and shots. We both can't take our eyes off the two little babies, each hovering right next to mom. {Stone Sheep, here at Stone Mountain are Dall sheep, like Rockie Mountain Bighorn sheep} Great looks as the ruling male watches over his harem.

A kestrel makes an overflight, then we come up to some more stone sheep perched up on a rocky hill, backlit by the sun. Sharon gets off some great shots.

I must admit, I am ticking off the miles and landmarks as we are on course for home now. Summit Lake is next, and this had ice on it on the trip up. No ice now.

Sharon hooks up her iPhone to the car stereo system, and plays this great Celine Dion song that a hotel played while Tara, Sharon and I were having dinner outside next to the under-water-lit swimming pool. It is in French, and it carries me back to that night. Great memory, Tara.

We pass the cinnabuns place we hit on the way up - the one that has the best cinnabuns in the galactic cluster. Clever. We bypass them though. {We bought one on our way past here and I actually ate it over about a week, it was so good but so sweet and big.}

The day's 15th black bear is sitting down in the grass, eating flowers. Very cool dude. Then as Sharon points out, he lays down while he eats. Pretty casual.

We bypass the road to Teetering Rock.

Bear #17 is on the right. A black bear, laying down in the grass. We can see his face, and he's saying "I'm Number 17."

Next, Sharon spots a moose on the left. I pull over to the far right, off the pavement, and take the camera, which she has started up on video mode. I walk across the highway, and it is a mother and baby, so I call Sharon so she can see the baby and get some good video, but to my distress, I note that the mother has a strong limp. Not a good sign I reckon. What a cute baby though.

Twenty miles from Fort Nelson, Bear #18 shows up on the right side of the road.

Holy cow, we get a pair of sand hill cranes on the left side of the road, and Sharon points out that this is almost the same location that we picked up two cranes on the way up. Do you suppose this is the same two? Got to be.

I walk back to get some video, and finish up, turning around to walk back to the trailer. When I open the door, sharon asks, "Did you get 'em flying?" Huh? No. Dangit. I just missed them. Oh well, I got no problems with anything that happened this remarkable day.

Eighteen bears!!! {Herd of buffalo, fox, rabbits, ptarmagain, moose, cranes, ravens, kestrels. What a day and it's because we are willing to get up early and drive 12 hours to see them.}

That's it for tonight. I sincerely doubt I'll ever have another day like this in my life. Unbelievably special. Unbelievably fortunate. Lucky lucky lucky.
Bob and Sharon


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